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Powering the future with our new Solar API

The global energy crisis, higher electricity prices, policy momentum, and reduced costs have driven unprecedented growth in renewable energy, with solar accounting for two-thirds of 2023’s projected increase in global renewable capacity. In fact, Google Maps Platform saw global search interest in "rooftop solar power" increase 60% last year on Google. With solar becoming more accessible, there’s increased potential and demand to bring information and technology to solar companies and developers around the world. That’s why they launched our Solar API, within a new suite of environment APIs from Google Maps Platform. The Solar API surfaces important building, rooftop, shading, and panel configuration data covering over 320 million buildings in 40 countries, with the goal of helping accelerate the transition to clean, renewable, solar energy.

The development of the Solar API

Years ago, a team at Google launched Project Sunroof to help people understand their estimated solar savings potential by installing a rooftop system. Naturally, companies wanted access to this information so they could better plan and implement solar technology. In order to tailor the product to meet specific business needs, Google Maps Platform spent several years working closely with solar industry leaders from around the world to test and develop a comprehensive solar data solution.

The Solar API offers several features that benefit solar marketplace websites, solar installers, SaaS developers, and any user looking to understand rooftop solar potential of a particular address. The API provides two distinct endpoints:

The Building Insights endpoint provides details of a building’s location, dimensions, and solar potential. It contains information such as the size and slope of the roof and the modeled energy production of a rooftop array. This information can be used to assess the potential benefits of installing solar, and can be used by solar professionals to help home and building owners explore and compare different solar configurations.

The Data Layers endpoint returns more granular details in regards to raw solar information for an area surrounding a location. Details include shading that may affect a system's performance and a digital surface model of the rooftop which can facilitate the detailed system placement and layout. This information can be used by solar installers to create custom solar proposals and by SaaS developers to automate the design of more efficient panel arrays.

Imagery data from the Solar API Data Layers endpoint. From top to bottom: Flux map, building mask, digital surface model (DSM) and RGB (aerial photo)

Improve your solar installation sales process

It’s not unusual for a residential solar design and installation to be a long, multistep time-consuming process. Solar companies typically need to spend time educating property owners, manually measuring rooftops, configuring multiple designs (often with incomplete solar potential information), and preparing financial information–all before closing an installation contract.

By using the Solar API, solar businesses can improve the customer experience for interested property owners, create reliable project proposals without requiring an on-site visit, and expedite the overall installation process. Each of these elements contributes to accelerating rooftop solar deployment and mitigating carbon emissions.

Enhance customer experiences

The Solar API allows companies to build solutions that easily educate and engage potential clients with high quality, visual insights about their rooftop’s solar potential for a specific address. This allows customers to have personalised, relevant information at their fingertips within seconds. Companies can also use the Solar API to provide cost savings estimates, array designs, and reliable quotes without the need for a home visit. Streamlining the sales journey with automated, online access to what consumers need to make a decision, greatly improves customer satisfaction and trust, while naturally increasing conversions with less effort and lower costs.

A longstanding pilot user and now Solar API customer, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) created Suncle, an online rooftop solar energy simulation to make the process of incorporating solar energy as easy and enjoyable as possible.

“By inputting an address, homeowners can locate their residence on the map, and adjust their electricity bill and solar installation size as they wish. They can find out installation costs, local subsidies available, cost savings, break even point, and how much impact their solar installation could have on reducing CO2, all in a few seconds. To get these figures without Suncle, they would need to have installers visit their house,” says Masami Jenkins, Director, Environment & Social Business Design Lab, TEPCO. “Suncle’s free online solar energy simulations get rid of this initial pain point and bring renewable energy closer to consumers. This is made possible by the Solar API, which calculates and provides every roof’s solar energy potential so that we can provide these insights instantly to homeowners interested in going solar.”

Create better proposals, save money, and broaden opportunities

With access to advanced data and imagery, solar professionals are able to create detailed, customised solar designs and proposals. Panel layouts that optimise solar energy can be created quickly and easily using clear images showing ridgelines, roof penetrations, obstacles, and shade patterns over time. This helps with accuracy and reduces the potential for reworks on the roof and adjustments to the original quote.

The data and insights provided by the Solar API are focused on replacing costly manual processes with time-saving automated ways to determine a rooftop’s viability and requirements for a solar installation that maximises the energy potential of each panel. Saving installers time and money, while removing barriers to the finalising sales.

Additionally, the Solar API’s broad coverage allows professionals to look across neighborhoods and regions to prioritise installation locations, investments, and business growth opportunities.

Walid Halty, Co-Founder and CEO of Mona Lee, a solar installation company, says, “At Mona Lee Solar, we’re disrupting the solar installation industry using AI to instantly create the optimal solar design to match a homeowner’s energy needs. The Solar API is a key input–it instantly gives us the data we need to analyse rooftops to determine how much sunlight they get to create customer proposals within the same workflow. By doing this remotely and instantly, we have greater cost savings and can provide a better customer experience, helping our business grow quickly in this space.”

Be part of a cleaner future

Accelerating the deployment of clean technology to help mitigate carbon emissions at scale is one of Google Maps Platforms’ top priorities, with the Solar API playing an integral role. The transition to clean energy is a critical step in fighting climate change and a key part of Google’s commitment to help individuals, cities, and customers collectively reduce 1 gigaton of their carbon equivalent emissions annually by 2030. By making unique, innovative, building-level solar information accessible to the industry, we hope to enable solutions that lower costs, improve efficiency, and ultimately inspire more people to transition to solar powered energy.

Looking ahead, they aspire to drive both short-term progress and long-term breakthroughs. No company–no matter how ambitious–can solve a challenge as big as climate change alone. One of the most powerful things we can do is build technology that allows us, our customers, and individuals around the world to take meaningful action.

We’re optimistic about what’s possible with the Solar API and our suite of Environment APIs. Get in touch with us today to find out how your business can benefit from these features.

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